That's Cyrus Readymoney speaking.He's smart.He's silver-tongued. He's shameless.He's all of 8 years old, the narrator and main attraction of Beach Boy,Ardashir Vakil's widely praised first novelof growing up Parsi in Bombay, circa 1970.
Cyrus is the newest initiate in the club of boyish spellbinders whose members includeEdwin Mullhouse,Holden Caulfield, andPaddy Clarke, those goodbad boys whose uncensoredconjurings remind us how titillating, entertaining, and essentially mysterious life can be before manners andreceived opinions settle upon it like a veneer of dust.The benign neglect of his wealthy family not onlyaffords Cyrus endless opportunities to observe his neighbors and tag along on their adventures, but it givesBeach Boy a cast of characters as wonderfully diverse as middle-class India itself. The big, athleticKrishnan family; the Maharani and her seductive daughter; Minoo and Mehroo Readymoney, Cyrus'scosmopolitan and self-involved progenitors; the household servant Bhagwan; brusque Aunty Zenobia; Mrs.Verma of the hundred different smiles—Ardashir Vakil evokes them all with naughty gusto.Since Cyrus isalready wildly precocious and agelessly astute, calling Beach Boy a coming-of-age story in thetraditional sense seems wrong.As his parents' marital difficulties reach crisis proportions, what our younghero loses is not so much his innocence, or his illusions, as his child's license to roam freely, an opportunistof insight and experience.By the time Cyrus suffers his first grown-up losses, we feel them, too, because hehas given us so much delight, because we understand how deeply resonant his impish spirit is. —Joyce Thompson
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